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THE GOLDEN TOUCH • BY 
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE 



THE NEW YORK 
PUBLIC LIBRARY 



ASTOR, LENOX 
TILDEN FOUNDATIONS 




;?o 



KING MIDAS BRINGS MARYGOLD BACK TO LIFE 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

TOLD TO THE CHILDREN 

BY , 

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE 



ILLUSTRATED BY 
PATTEN WILSON 



BOSTON 6 NEW YORK: HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPY 



THE K£W YORK 
PUBLIC r^^AH 

9119:50 

^ lyi9 


±1 



PRINTED AT THE ARDEN PRESS. LETCHWORTH. ENGLAND 




THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

CNCE upon a time, there lived a very rich man, 
^ and a king besides, whose name was Midas ; 
■ and he had a httle daughter, whom nobody but 
f myself ever heard of, and whose name I either 
never knew, or have entirely forgotten. So, 
because I love odd names for little girls, I choose to call 
her Mary gold. 

This King Midas was fonder of gold than of anything else 
in the world. He valued his royal crown chiefly because it 
was composed of that precious metal. If he loved anything 
better, or half so well, it was the one little maiden who played 
so merrily around her father's footstool. But the more Midas 
loved his daughter, the more did he desire and seek for wealth. 

5 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

He thought, fooHsh man ! that the best thing he could possibly 
do for this dear child would be to bequeath her the immensest 
pile of yellow, glistening coin, that had ever been heaped 
together since the world was made. Thus, he gave all his 
thoughts and all his time to this one purpose. If ever he 
happened to gaze for an instant at the gold-tinted clouds of 
sunset, he wished that they were real gold, and that they could 
be squeezed safely into his strong box. When little Mary gold 
ran to meet him, with a bunch of buttercups and dandelions, 
he used to say, " Poh, poh, child! If these flowers were as 
golden as they look, they would be worth the plucking ! " 

And yet, in his earlier days, before he was so entirely pos- 
sessed of this insane desire for riches. King Midas had shown 
a great taste for flowers. He had planted a garden, in which 
grew the biggest and beautifullest and sweetest roses that any 
mortal ever saw or smelt. These roses were still growing in 
the garden, as large, as lovely, and as fragrant, as when Midas 
used to pass whole hours in gazing at them, and inhahng their 
perfume. But now, if he looked at them at all, it was only to 
calculate how much the garden would be worth if each of the 
innumerable rose-petals were a thin plate of gold. And 
though he once was fond of music (in spite of an idle stor}^ 
about his ears, which were said to resemble those of an ass), 
the only music for poor Midas, now, was the chink of one coin 
against another. 

At length (as people always grow more and more foolish, 
unless they take care to grow wiser and wdser), Midas had got 
to be so exceedingly unreasonable, that he could scarcely bear 
to see or touch any object that was not gold. He made it his 
custom, therefore, to pass a large portion of every day in a dark 
6 




KING MIDAS IN HIS TREASURY 



ASTOR, LENOX 

tilde5?oundationb_ 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

and dreary apartment, under ground, at the basement of his 
palace. It was here that he kept his wealth. To this dismal 
hole — for it was little better than a dungeon — Midas betook 
himself whenever he wanted to be particularly happy. Here, 
after carefully locking the door, he would take a bag of gold 
coin, or a gold cup as big as a washbowl, or a heavy golden 
bar, or a peck-measure of gold-dust, and bring them from the 
obscure corners of the room into the one bright and narrow 
sunbeam that fell from the dungeon-like window. He valued 
the sunbeam for no other reason but that his treasure would 
not shine without its help. And then would he reckon over the 
coins in the bag; toss up the bar, and catch it as it came down; 
sift the gold-dust through his fingers ; look at the funny image 
of his own face, as reflected in the burnished circumference of 
the cup; and whisper to himself, " Midas, rich King Midas, 
what a happy man art thou ! " But it was laughable to see 
hov/ the image of his face kept grinning at him, out of the 
polished surface of the cup. It seemed to be aware of his 
foolish behaviour, and to have a naughty incHnation to make 
fun of him. 

Midas called himself a happy man, but felt that he was not 
yet quite so happy as he might be. The very tiptop of enjoy- 
ment would never be reached unless the whole world were to 
become his treasure-room and be filled with yellow metal 
which should be all his own. 

Now, I need hardly remind such wise little people as you 
are that in the old, old times, when King Midas was alive, a 
great many things came to pass, which we should consider 
wonderful if they were to happen in our own day and country. 
And, on the other hand, a great many things take place now- 

7 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

adays, which seem not only wonderful to us, but at which the 
people of old times would have stared their eyes out. On the 
whole, I regard our own times as the strangest of the two; but, 
however that may be, I must go on with my story. 

Midas was enjoying himself in his treasure-room, one day, 
as usual, when he perceived a shadow fall over the heaps of 
gold; and, looking suddenly up, what should he behold but 
the figure of a stranger, standing in the bright and narrow 
sunbeam! It was a young man, with a cheerful and ruddy 
face. Whether it was that the imagination of King Midas 
threw a yellow tinge over everything, or whatever the cause 
might be, he could not help fanc3'ing that the smile with 
which the stranger regarded him had a kind of golden radiance 
in it. Certainly, although his figure intercepted the sunshine, 
there was now a brighter gleam upon all the piled-up treasures 
than before. Even the remotest corners had their share of it, 
and were lighted up, when the stranger smiled, as with tips of 
flame and sparkles of fire. 

As Midas knew that he had carefully turned the key in the 
lock, and that no mortal strength could possibly break into 
his treasure-room, he, of course, concluded that his visitor 
must be something more than mortal. It is no matter about 
telling you who he was. In those days, when the earth was 
comparatively a new affair, it was supposed to be often the 
resort of beings endowed with supernatural power, and who 
used to interest themselves in the joys and sorrows of men, 
women, and children, half playfully and half seriously. IMidas 
had met such beings before now, and was not sorry to meet one 
of them again. The stranger's aspect, indeed, was so good- 
humoured and kindly, if not beneficent, that it would have 
8 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

been unreasonable to suspect him of intending any mischief. 
It was far more probable that he came to do Midas a favour. 
And what could that favour be unless to multiply his heaps of 
treasure ? 

The stranger gazed about the room; and when his lustrous 
smile had glistened upon all the golden objects that were there, 
he turned again to Midas. 

" You are a wealthy man, friend Midas! " he observed. ** I 
doubt whether any other four walls, on earth, contain so much 
gold as you have contrived to pile up in this room." 

" I have done pretty well — ^pretty well," answered Midas, in 
a discontented tone. " But, after all, it is but a trifle, when 
you consider that it has taken me my whole Ufe to get it to- 
gether. If one could live a thousand years, he might have 
time to grow rich ! " 

"What!" exclaimed the stranger. "Then you are not 
satisfied? " 

Midas shook his head. 

" And pray what would satisfy you? " asked the stranger. 
" Merely for the curiosity of the thing, I should be glad to 
know." 

Midas paused and meditated. He felt a presentiment that 
this stranger, with such a golden lustre in his good-humoured 
smile, had come hither with both the power and the purpose 
of gratifying his utmost wishes. Now, therefore, was the 
fortunate moment, when he had but to speak, and obtain 
whatever possible, or seemingly impossible thing, it might 
come into his head to ask. So he thought, and thought, and 
thought, and heaped up one golden mountain upon another, 
in his imagination, without being able to imagine them big 

c 9 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

enough. At last, a bright idea occurred to King Midas. It 
seemed really as bright as the glistening metal which he loved 
so much. 

Raising his head, he looked the lustrous stranger in the 
face. 

" Well, Midas," observed his visitor, "I see that you have 
at length hit upon something that will satisfy you. Tell me 
your wish." 

" It is only this," replied Midas. " I am weary of collecting 
my treasures with so much trouble, and beholding the heap 
so diminutive, after I have done my best. I wish everj^thing 
that I touch to be changed to gold ! " 

The stranger's smile grew so very broad, that it seemed to 
fill the room like an outburst of the sun, gleaming into a 
shadowy dell, where the yellow autumnal leaves — for so looked 
the lumps and particles of gold — lie strewn in the glow of 
light. 

"The Golden Touch!" exclaimed he. "You certainly 
deserve credit, friend Midas, for striking out so brilliant a 
conception. But are you quite sure that this will satisfy 
you? 

" How could it fail? " said Midas. 

" And will you never regret the possession of it ? " 

" What could induce me? " asked Midas. " I ask nothing 
else, to render me perfectly happy." 

" Be it as you wish, then," replied the stranger, waving his 
hand in token of farewell. " To-morrow, at sunrise, you will 
find yourself gifted with the Golden Touch." 

The figure of the stranger then became exceedingly bright, 
and Midas involuntarily closed his eyes. On opening them 

10 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

again, he beheld only one yellow sunbeam in the room, and, 
all around him, the glistening of the precious metal which he 
had spent his life in hoarding up. 

Whether Midas slept as usual that night, the story does not 
say. Asleep or awake, however, his mind was probably in 
the state of a child's, to whom a beautiful new plaything has 
been promised in the morning. At any rate, day had hardly 
peeped over the hills, when King Midas was broad awake, and, 
stretching his arms out of bed, began to touch the objects that 
were within reach. He was anxious to prove whether the 
Golden Touch had really come, according to the stranger's 
promise. So he laid his finger on a chair by the bedside, and 
on various other things, but was grievously disappointed to 
perceive that they remained of exactly the same substance as 
before. Indeed, he felt very much afraid that he had only 
dreamed about the lustrous stranger, or else that the latter 
had been making game of him. And what a miserable affair 
would it be, if, after all his hopes, Midas must content himself 
with what little gold he could scrape together by ordinary 
means, instead of creating it by a touch ! 

All this while, it was only the grey of the morning, with but 
a streak of brightness along the edge of the sky, where Midas 
could not see it. He lay in a very disconsolate mood, re- 
gretting the downfall of his hopes, and kept growing sadder 
and sadder, until the earliest sunbeam shone through the 
window, and gilded the ceiling over his head. It seemed to 
Midas that this bright yellow sunbeam was reflected in rather 
a singular way on the white covering of the bed. Looking 
more closely, what was his astonishment and delight, when 
he found that this linen fabric had been transmuted to what 

II 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

seemed a woven texture of the purest and brightest gold! 
The Golden Touch had come to him with the first sun- 
beam! 

Midas started up, in a kind of joyful frenzy, and ran about 
the room, grasping at everything that happened to be in his 
way. He seized one of the bed-posts, and it became imme- 
diately a fluted golden pillar. 
He pulled aside a window- 
curtain, in order to admit a 
clear spectacle of the wonders 
which he was performing ; and 
the tassel grew heavy in his 
hand — a mass of gold. He 
took up a book from the table. 
At his first touch, it assumed 
the appearance of such a splen- 
didly bound and gilt-edged 
volume as one often meets 
with, nowadays; but, on run- 
ning his fingers through the leaves, behold ! it was a bundle 
of thin golden plates, in which all the wisdom of the book had 
grown illegible. He hurriedly put on his clothes, and was en- 
raptured to see himself in a magnificent suit of gold cloth, 
which retained its flexibility and softness, although it bur- 
dened him a little with its weight. He drew out his hand- 
kerchief, which little Marygold had hemmed for him. That 
was likewise gold, with the dear child's neat and pretty 
stitches running all along the border, in gold thread ! 

Somehow or other, this last transformation did not quite 
please King Midas. He would rather that his little daughter's 
12 




THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

handiwork should have remained just the same as when she 
dimbed his knee and put it into his hand. 

But it was not worth while to vex himself about a trifle. 
Midas now took his spectacles from his pocket, and put them 
on his nose, in order that he might see more distinctly what 
he was about. In those days spectacles for common people 
had not been invented, but were 
already worn by kings; else, how 
could Midas have had any? To 
his great perplexity, however, ex- 
cellent as the glasses were, he 
discovered that he could not possi- 
bly see through them. But this 
was the most natural thing in the 
world ; for, on taking them off, the 
transparent crystals turned out to 
be plates of yellow metal, and, of 
course, were worthless as specta- 
cles, though valuable as gold. It struck Midas as rather in- 
convenient that, with all his wealth, he could never again be 
rich enough to own a pair of serviceable spectacles. 

"It is no great matter, nevertheless," said he to himself, 
very philosophically. " We cannot expect any great good, 
without its being accompanied with some small inconvenience. 
The Golden Touch is worth the sacrifice of a pair of spectacles, 
at least, if not of one's very eyesight. My own eyes will serve 
for ordinary purposes, and little Marygold will soon be old 
enough to read to me." 

Wise King Midas was so exalted by his good fortune that 
the palace seemed not sufficiently spacious to contain him. 

13 




THE DOOR. 
LATCH 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

He therefore went downstairs, and smiled, on observing that 
the balustrade of the staircase became a bar of burnished gold, 
as his hand passed over it, in his descent. He lifted the door- 
latch (it was brass onty a moment ago, but golden when his 
fingers quitted it), and emerged into the garden. Here, as 
it happened, he found a great number of beautiful roses in full 
bloom, and others in all the stages of lovely bud and blossom. 
Very delicious was their fragrance in the morning breeze. 
Their delicate blush was one of the fairest sights in the world; 
so gentle, so modest, and so full of sweet tranquillity, did these 
roses seem to be. 

But Midas knew a way to make them far more precious, 
according to his way of thinking, than roses had ever been 
before. So he took great pains in going from bush to bush, 
and exercised his magic touch most indef atigably ; until every 
individual flower and bud, and even the worms at the heart 
of some of them, were changed to gold. B}^ the time this 
good work was completed, King Midas was summoned to 
breakfast ; and as the morning air had given him an excellent 
appetite, he made haste back to the palace. 

\\'hat was usually a king's breakfast in the da3's of Midas 
I really do not know, and cannot stop now to investigate. 
To the best of my belief, however, on this particular morning, 
the breakfast consisted of hot cakes, some nice little brook 
trout, roasted potatoes, fresh boiled eggs, and coffee, for King 
Midas himself, and a bowl of bread and milk for his daughter 
Mary gold. At all events, this is a breakfast fit to set before 
a king ; and, whether he had it or not, King Midas could not 
have had a better. 

Little Marj'gold had not yet made her appearance. Her 
14 




KING MIDAS TURNS THE ROSES TO GOLD 



THE NEW YORK 
PUBLIC LIBRARY 



ASTOR, LENOX 
TILDEN FOUNDATIONS 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

father ordered her to be called, and, seating himself at table, 
awaited the child's coming, in order to begin his own breakfast. 
To do Midas justice, he really loved his daughter, and loved 
her so much the more this morning, on account of the good 
fortune which had befallen him. It was not a great while 
before he heard her coming along the 
passageway crying bitterly. This cir- 
cumstance surprised him, because Mary- 
gold was one of the cheerfullest little 





MARYGOLD'S 
BOWL 



people whom you would see in a summer's day, and hardly shed 
a thimbleful of tears in a twelvemonth. When Midas heard her 
sobs, he determined to put little Marygold into better spirits by 
an agreeable surprise ; so, leaning across the table, he touched 
his daughter's bowl (which was a China one, with pretty figures 
all around it), and transmuted it to gleaming gold. 

Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconsolately opened the 
door, and showed herself with her apron at her eyes, still sob- 
bing as if her heart would break. 

15 



Pray what is 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

" How now, my little lady! " cried Midas, 
the matter with you, this bright morning? " 

Marygold, without taking the apron from her eyes, held out 
her hand, in which was one of the roses which Midas had so 
recently transmuted. 

" Beautiful! " exclaimed her father. 
" And what is there in this magnificent 
golden rose to make you cry ? " 

"Ah, dear father!" answered the 
child, as well as her sobs would let her ; 
"it is not beautiful, but the ugliest 
flower that ever grew! As soon as I 
was dressed I ran into the garden to 
gather some roses for you; because I 
know 3^ou like them, and like them the 
better when gathered by your httle 
daughter. But, oh dear, dear me ! What 
do you think has happened? Such a 
misfortune! All the beautiful roses, 
that smelled so sweetly and had so 
many lovely blushes, are blighted and 
spoilt ! They are grown quite yellow, 
as you see this one, and have no longer 
any fragrance ! What can have been the matter with them ? " 

" Poh, my dear little girl — pray don't cry about it! " said 
Midas, who was ashamed to confess that he himself had 
wrought the change which so greatly afflicted her. " Sit down 
and eat your bread and milk ! You will find it easy enough 
to exchange a golden rose like that (which will last hundreds 
of years) for an ordinary one which would wither in a day." 
i6 




THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

" I don't care for such roses as this ! " cried Marygold, 
tossing it contemptuously away. " It has no smell, and the 
hard petals prick my nose ! " 

The child now sat down to table, but was so occupied with 
her grief for the blighted roses that she did not even notice the 
wonderful transmutation of her China bowl. Perhaps this 
was all the better ; for Marygold was accustomed to take plea- 
sure in looking at the queer figures, and strange trees and 
houses, that were painted on the circumference of the bowl; 
and these ornaments were now entirely lost in the yellow hue 
of the metal. 

Midas, meanwhile, had poured out a cup of coffee, and, as 
a matter of course, the coffee-pot, whatever metal it may 
have been when he took it up, was gold when he set it down. 
He thought to himself that it was rather an extravagant style 
of splendour, in a king of his simple habits, to breakfast off 
a service of gold, and began to be puzzled with the difficulty 
of keeping his treasures safe. The cupboard and the kitchen 
would no longer be a secure place of deposit for articles so 
valuable as golden bowls and coffee-pots. 

Amid these thoughts, he lifted a spoonful of coffee to his 
lips, and, sipping it, was astonished to perceive that, the 
instant his lips touched the liquid, it became molten gold, and, 
the next moment, hardened into a lump ! 

" Ha! " exclaimed Midas, rather aghast. 

"What is the matter, father?" asked little Marygold, 
gazing at him, with the tears still standing in her eyes. 

" Nothing, child, nothing! " said Midas. " Eat your milk, 
before it gets quite cold." 

He took one of the nice little trouts on his plate, and, by 

D 17 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

way of experiment, touched its tail with his finger. To his 
horror, it was immediately transmuted from an admirably 
fried brook-trout into a gold-fish, though not one of those 
gold-fishes which people often keep in glass globes, as orna- 
ments for the parlour. No; but it was really a metallic fish, 
and looked as if it had been very cunningly made by the 
nicest goldsmith in the world. Its little bones were now 
golden wires; its fins and tail were thin plates of gold; and 
there were the marks of the fork in it, and all the dehcate, 
frothy appearance of a nicely fried fish, exactly imitated in 
metal. A very pretty piece of work, as you may suppose; 
only King Midas, just at that moment, would much rather 
have had a real trout in his dish than this elaborate and valu- 
able imitation of one. 

" I don't quite see," thought he to himself, '* how I am to 
get any breakfast ! " 

He took one of the smoking-hot cakes, and had scarcely 
broken it, when, to his cruel mortification, though, a moment 
before, it had been of the whitest wheat, it assumed the yellow 
hue of Indian meal. To sa}^ the truth, if it had really been a 
hot Indian cake, Midas would have prized it a good deal more 
than he now did, when its solidity and increased weight made 
him too bitterly sensible that it was gold. Almost in despair, 
he helped himself to a boiled egg, which immediately under- 
went a change similar to those of the trout and the cake. The 
egg, indeed, might have been mistaken for one of those which 
the famous goose, in the story-book, was in the habit of lay- 
ing ; but King Midas was the onty goose that had had anything 
to do with the matter. 

" Well, this is a quandary! " thought he, leaning back in 
i8 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

his chair and looking quite 
enviously at little Mary- 
gold, who was now eating 
her bread and milk with 
great satisfaction. " Such 
a costly breakfast before 
me, and nothing that can 
be eaten! " 

Hoping that, by dint of 
great dispatch, he might 
avoid what he now felt to 
be a considerable incon- 
venience, King Midas next 
snatched a hot potato, and 
attempted to cram it into 
his mouth and swallow it 
in a hurry. But the Golden 
Touch was too nimble for 
him. He found his mouth 
full, not of mealy potato, 
but of solid metal, which 
so burnt his tongue that 
he roared aloud, and, 
jumping up from the 
table, began to dance and 
stamp about the room, 
both with pain and af- 
fright. 



" Father, dear father !" 
cried little Marygold, who 




THE HOT GOLD POTATO 



91 



J- 



9oO 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

was a very affectionate child, "pray what is the matter? 
Have you burnt your mouth ? " 

" Ah, dear child," groaned Midas, dolefully, " I don't know 
what is to become of your poor father! " 

And, truly, my dear little folks, did you ever hear of such 
a pitiable case in all your lives ? Here was literally the richest 
breakfast that could be set before a king, and its very richness 
made it absolutely good for nothing. The poorest labourer, 
sitting down to his crust of bread and cup of water, was far 
better off than King Midas, whose delicate food was really 
worth its weight in gold. And what was to be done? Al- 
ready, at breakfast, Midas was excessively hungry. Would 
he be less so by dinner-time? And how ravenous would be 
his appetite for supper, which must undoubtedly consist of 
the same sort of indigestible dishes as those now before him ! 
How many days, think you, would he survive a continuance 
of this rich fare ? 

These reflections so troubled wise King Midas that he began 
to doubt whether, after all, riches are the one desirable thing 
in the world, or even the most desirable. But this was only a 
passing thought. So fascinated was Midas with the glitter 
of the yellow metal that he would still have refused to give up 
the Golden Touch for so paltry a consideration as a breakfast. 
Just imagine what a price for one meal's victuals ! It would 
have been the same as paying milHons and miUions of money 
(and as many millions more as would take for ever to reckon 
up) for some fried trout, an egg, a potato, a hot cake, and a cup 
of coffee ! 

" It would be quite too dear," thought Midas. 

Nevertheless, so great was his hunger, and the perplexity 

20 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

of his situation, that he again groaned aloud, and very griev- 
ously too. Our pretty Marygold could endure it no longer. 
She sat, a moment, gazing at her father, and trying, with all 
the might of her little wits, to find out what was the matter 
with him. Then, with a sweet and sorrowful impulse to com- 
fort him, she started from her chair, and, running to Midas, 
threw her arms affectionately about his knees. He bent down 
and kissed her. He felt that his little daughter's love was worth a 
thousand times more than he had gained by the Golden Touch. 

" My precious, precious Marygold! " cried he. 

But Marygold made no answer. 

Alas, what had he done ? How fatal was the gift which the 
stranger bestowed! The moment the lips of Midas touched 
Marygold's forehead, a change had taken place. Her sweet, 
rosy face, so full of affection as it had been, assumed a glitter- 
ing yellow colour, with yellow tear-drops congealing on her 
cheeks. Her beautiful brown ringlets took the same tint. 
Her soft and tender little form grew hard and inflexible within 
her father's encircling arms. Oh, terrible misfortune! The 
victim of his insatiable desire for wealth, little Marygold was 
a human child no longer, but a golden statue ! 

Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of love, grief, 
and pity, hardened into her face. It was the prettiest and 
most woeful sight that ever mortal saw. All the features and 
tokens of Marygold were there; even the beloved little dimple 
remained in her golden chin. But, the more perfect was the 
resemblance, the greater was the father's agony at beholding 
this golden image, which was all that was left him of a daugh- 
ter. It had been a favourite phrase of Midas, whenever he 
felt particularly fond of the child, to say that she was worth 

D3 21 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

her weight in gold. And now the phrase had become Hterally true. 
And now, at last, when it was too late, he felt how infinitely 
a warm and tender heart, that loved him, exceeded in value all 
the wealth that could be piled up betwixt the earth and sky ! 

It would be too sad a story if I were to tell you how Midas, 
in the fullness of all his gratified desires, began to wring his 
hands and bemoan himself; and how he could neither bear to 
look at Marygold, nor yet to look away from her. Except 
when his eyes were fixed on the image, he could not possibly 
believe that she was changed to gold. But, stealing another 
glance, there was the precious little figure, with a yellow tear- 
drop on its yellow cheek, and a look so piteous and tender, 
that it seemed as if that very expression must needs soften 
the gold and make it flesh again. This, however, could not be. 
So Midas had only to wring his hands, and to wish that he were 
the poorest man in the wide world, if the loss of all his wealth 
might bring back the faintest rose-colour to his dear child's face. 

While he was in this tumult of despair, he suddenly beheld 
a stranger standing near the door. Midas bent down his head 
without speaking, for he recognized the same figure which 
had appeared to him, the day before, in the treasure-room and 
had bestowed on him this disastrous faculty of the Golden 
Touch. The stranger's countenance still wore a smile, which 
seemed to shed a yellow lustre all about the room, and gleamed 
on little Mar3^gold's image, and on the other objects that had 
been transmuted by the touch of Midas. 

" Well, friend Midas," said the stranger, " pray how do you 
succeed with the Golden Touch ? " 

Midas shook his head. 

** I am very miserable," said he. 

22 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

" Very miserable, indeed ! " exclaimed the stranger. " And 
how happens that ? Have I not faithfully kept my promise with 
you ? Have you not everything that your heart desired ? " 

" Gold is not everything," answered Midar . " And I have 
'lost all that my heart really cared for." 

" Ah! So you have made a discovery, since yesterday? " 
observed the stranger. " Let us see, then. Which of these 
two things do you think is really worth the most — the gift of 
the Golden Touch, or one cup of clear cold water ? " 

"O blessed water!" exclaimed Midas. "It will never 
moisten my parched throat again ! " 

" The Golden Touch," continued the stranger, " or a crust 
of bread? " 

" A piece of bread," answered Midas, " is worth all the gold 
on earth! " 

" The Golden Touch," asked the stranger, ** or your own little 
Marygold, warm, soft, and loving as she was an hour ago ? " 

" Oh, my child, my dear child ! " cried poor Midas, wringing 
his hands. " I would not have given that one small dimple 
in her chin for the power of changing this whole big earth into 
a solid lump of gold ! " 

"You are wiser than you were. King Midas! " said the 
stranger, looking seriously at him. " Your own heart, I per- 
ceive, has not been entirely changed from flesh to gold. Were 
it so, your case would indeed be desperate. But you appear 
to be still capable of understanding that the commonest 
things, such as lie within everybody's grasp, are more valuable 
than the riches which so many mortals sigh and struggle after. 
Tell me, now, do you sincerely desire to rid yourself of this 
Golden Touch? " 

23 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

" It is hateful to me ! " replied Midas. 

A fly settled on his nose, but immediately fell to the floor; 
for it, too, had become gold. Midas shuddered. 

" Go, then," said the stranger, " and plunge into the river 
that glides past the bottom of your garden. Take likewise a 
vase of the same water, and sprinkle it over any object that 
you may desire to change back again from gold into its former 
substance. If you do this in earnestness and sincerity, it may 
possibly repair the mischief which your avarice has occasioned." 

King Midas bowed low; and when he lifted his head the lus- 
trous stranger had vanished. 

You ^^dll easily believe that Midas lost no time in snatching 
up a great earthen pitcher (but, alas me ! it was no longer 
earthen after he touched it), and hastened to the river-side. 
As he scampered along, and forced his way through the shrub- 
bery, it was positively marvellous to see how the foliage 
turned yellow behind him, as if the autumn had been there, 
and nowhere else. On reaching the river's brink he plunged 
headlong in, without waiting so much as to pull off his shoes. 

"Poof! poof! poof!" snorted King Midas, as his head 
emerged out of the water. " Well; this is really a refreshing 
bath, and I think it must have quite washed away the Golden 
Touch. And now for filling my pitcher! " 

As he dipped the pitcher into the water, it gladdened his 
very heart to see it change from gold into the same good, 
honest earthen vessel which it had been before he touched 
it. He was conscious, also, of a change within himself. A 
cold, hard, and heavy weight seemed to have gone out of his 
bosom. No doubt his heart had been gradually losing its 
human substance, and transmuting itself into insensible metal, 
24 




KING iMIDAS UMPS INTO THE RIVER 



THE NEW YORK 
PUBLIC LIBRARY 



ASTOR, LENOX j 

TILDEN FOUNDATIONS | 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

but had now softened back again into flesh. Perceiving a 
violet, that grew on the bank of the river, Midas touched it 
with his finger, and was overjoyed to find that the deUcate 
flower retained its purple hue, instead of undergoing a yellow 
bHght. The curse of the Golden Touch had, therefore, really 
been removed from him. 

King Midas hastened back to the palace; and, I suppose, 
the servants knew not what to make of it when they saw their 
royal master so carefully bringing home an earthen pitcher of 
water. But that water, which was to undo all the mischief 
that his folly had wrought, was more precious to Midas than 
an ocean of molten gold could have been. The first thing he 
did, as you need hardly be told, was to sprinkle it by handfuls 
over the golden figure of little Mary gold. 

No sooner did it fall on her than you would have laughed 
to see how the rosy colour came back to the dear child's 
cheek ! and how she began to sneeze and sputter ! — and how 
astonished she was to find herself dripping wet, and her 
father still throwing more water over her ! 

** Pray do not, dear father! " cried she. " See how you 
have wet my nice frock, which I put on only this morning! " 

For Marygold did not know that she had been a little 
golden statue; nor could she remember anything that had 
happened since the moment when she ran with outstretched 
arms to comfort poor King Midas. 

Her father did not think it necessary to tell his beloved 
child how very foolish he had been, but contented himself 
with showing how much wiser he had now grown. For this 
purpose, he led little Marygold into the garden, where he 
sprinkled all the remainder of the water over the rose-bushes, 

25 



THE GOLDEN TOUCH 

and with such good effect that above five thousand roses re- 
covered their beautiful bloom. There were two circumstances, 
however, which, as long as he lived, used to put King Midas 
in mind of the Golden Touch. One was, that the sands of 
the river sparkled like gold; the other, that little Marygold's 
hair had now a golden tinge, which he had never observed in 
it before she had been transmuted by the effect of his kiss. 
This change of hue was really an improvement, and made 
Marygold's hair richer than in her babyhood. 

When King Midas had grown quite an old man, and used 
to trot Marygold's children on his knee, he was fond of telUng 
them this marvellous story, pretty much as I have now told 
it to you. And then would he stroke their glossy ringlets, 
and tell them that their hair, likewise, had a rich shade of gold, 
which they had inherited from their mother. 

" And to tell you the truth, my precious little folks," quoth 
King Midas, diligently trotting the children all the while, " ever 
since that morning I have hated the very sight of all other gold 
save this ! " 




KING MIDAS'S 
FOOTSTOOL 



THE END 



LETCHWORTH: PRINTED AT THE ARDEN PRESS 



It*